Can your work make a difference in your faith? Could what you do every day, whether in your office, store, cubicle, or kitchen, help to form your soul and your relationship with God?
Yes. I think so. And I think this is worth some conversation.
In my role as the Executive Director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Seminary, I lead several efforts that focus on the integration of faith, work, and economics (often abbreviated as FWE). This sort of integration has been discussed in Christian circles for much of the last fifty years. In the last decade, though, it has become a much more common topic of conversation because millions of followers of Jesus are eager to live seamless lives, lives in which their work and faith are deeply connected, both for personal fulfillment and for the flourishing of our world.
It is most common for discussions of FWE in the Christian tradition to focus on how followers of Jesus can and should live their faith through their work. This is not only about leading a prayer group during lunch or talking about faith with co-workers. It’s also about how our deep beliefs and faithful practices can give meaning to our work, and how we might express our faith through all that we do, including how we treat those with whom we work. Classically, this sort of effort was called “faith at work.” The direction of the conversation went from faith to work.
But could it go in the opposite direction, from work to faith? Is there an inverse relationship between faith and work? Is there something that might be called “work at faith”? Could it be that God wants to use our work to help form us to be more like Jesus?I would answer “yes” to all of these questions.
Let me offer an analogy that will help to illustrate the point I’m trying to make here. When my sister was a teenager, she worked for several months at a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store. Hundreds of times each week, Julie would scoop hard, frozen ice cream into cones and cups. Because she was right-handed, Julie would always scoop with her preferred hand. In time, her right wrist and arm began to change. Her muscles grew stronger and larger. Julie would laugh about the fact that her arms were unbalanced. One looked like the arm of an ordinary teenage girl; the other looked like the arm of a muscular athlete.
Julie was formed by her work, physically. No question about it. A similar sort of thing can happen, I believe, spiritually. What we experience at work certainly can and usually will affect our spiritual lives, our souls, our relationship with God.
Often this happens without our awareness or intentionality. But I believe that if we learn to pay attention to what’s happening in us through our work, if we learn to see how God is at work in and around us, if we bring our work before the Lord and seek his wisdom, then the process of being formed spiritually through our work can be enhanced.
I know what I’ve written here raises lots of questions, and I hope to answer some of these questions in future blog posts. For now, I’d encourage you to think about ways you have been formed spiritually through your work. If you want to share these, you can leave a comment below. Or, if you want to communicate with me confidentially, you can email me at “markblog-AT-markdroberts.com.”